Water :The wellspring of life, or just a commodity

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The wellspring of life, or just a commodity

Cost, not emotion, likely to kill export idea Philip Lee The Ottawa Citizen

Brigitte Bouvier, The Ottawa Citizen Early this year, the Council of Canadians opposed a plan by the OMYA stone manufacturing company -- the world's largest supplier of calcium carbonate to the paper, paint, plastic, food and pharmaceutical industries -- to extract water from the Tay River near Perth, Ont.

Water is heavy: 1,000 litres of water weighs a tonne. Pump water hundreds of kilometres through a pipeline, or pour it into a tanker and ship it any distance at all, and water becomes expensive.

Just how expensive is a matter of debate. Estimates range from $1,000 to $3,000 U.S. an acre foot (there are about 1.2 million litres in an acre foot).

Residents of cities in California now pay about $600 U.S. an acre foot for water, and farmers as little as $50 an acre foot.

Are Americans so desperate for water that they would pay the cost of piping it or shipping it from Canada? That is the essential question in the often emotional great water debate in Canada.

Last month, U.S. President George W. Bush confirmed the fears of the most vocal opponents of bulk water shipments. Mr. Bush told reporters the United States would be interested in piping Canadian water down to the thirsty southwestern states and that he would raise the issue with Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the G8 Summit in Genoa.

The federal government immediately responded by insisting bulk exports of water from Canada weren't on the table.

The Council of Canadians, which has led the campaign against water exports with the support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, pounced on Mr. Bush's statement. Maude Barlow, the chairwoman of the council, said Mr. Bush had been candid enough to tell the truth, and that Mr. Chretien has suggested he is willing "turn the tap."

"Canadians wanted bulk exports banned and the Liberals are opening the floodgates," she said.

The crux of the argument from the opponents of bulk water shipments is that under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement, water is not protected, and that if Canada permits the sale of bulk water, it becomes a tradable commodity. Once water is a commodity, a giant water valve will be turned on and stuck in that position.

The council has called on the Chretien government to pass legislation prohibiting the export of water, and has linked the trade of water with the trend across North America to hire private firms to deliver water services.

"What is more fundamental to democracy than control over the water we drink?" asks Judy Darcy, CUPE's national president. "Access for all Canadians to a basic source of life is what's at stake. Multinational corporations are trying to privatize water services in hundreds of Canadian municipalities and turn our water resources into an export commodity. They can't buy the air we breathe, so now they want to buy and control the water we drink. What we are saying is simple: No water for profit."

Apart from Mr. Bush's statement, the council appears to have evidence to back up its concerns. On the East Coast, Newfoundland Premier Roger Grimes continues to argue that his province should be permitted to export water. A company called McCurdy Enterprises wants to export 49 billion litres of water a year from Newfoundland's Gisborne Lake.

On the West Coast, a California company, Sun Belt Water Inc., is taking Canada to court under the terms of NAFTA to force B.C. to sell bulk water to the U.S., and to claim millions of dollars in damages for the business it says it has lost through Canada's refusal to adhere to what it claims are the terms of the trade agreement.

For the council, most water issues return to the question of exports and privatization. Early this year, the council opposed a plan by the OMYA stone manufacturing firm -- the world's largest supplier of calcium carbonate to the paper, paint, plastic, food and pharmaceutical industries -- to extract water from the Tay River near Perth, Ont.

While the residents of the area were raising valid concerns about the ecological implications of a plan to remove several million litres of water a day from the small river, the council said the project "may trigger much broader obligations for water exports under the North American Free Trade Agreement."

Throughout the debate, the council has raised concerns about the potential ecological damage of bulk water shipments.

Canadian author Marq de Villiers points out that the transfer of water on a large scale from one basin to another is a risky business. A water basin is the "hydrological cycle's recycling unit," he writes, and we are "tampering with this life-support system, with uncertain consequences."

But Mr. de Villiers notes that what is missing from the bulk water debate is an acknowledgment that water isn't anyone's property.

"Water is not 'ours' or 'theirs' but the planet's. We use water, and it passes on, and then it comes back to us. But it is not, surely, something we should either hoard or prevent others from using."

Peter Gleick, a California water guru who heads the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, agrees that environmental and social consequences should be the primary issue when appraising any bulk water transfer proposals.

"I don't think water should be exported from anywhere until local environmental needs have been guaranteed, the local ecosystems have been protected, and the local populations have been protected and their needs are met," he says.

Despite these legitimate ecological and social issues, the bottom line for bulk exports may turn out to be economics, Mr. Gleick says.

"I actually think this enormous controversy over bulk water exports is a little bit silly because no one's going to be able to afford it," he says. "That might not be true if we're talking about whether Chicago wanted to take more water out of the Great Lakes, but that's a different issue. I think that no one is going to be able to afford to put water into tankers, move it very far, and make any money.

"And frankly I think some of these people who complain because they have been prohibited from doing it, I think we've saved them a lot of money. I think they should have been allowed to do it and go bankrupt."

What about the possibilities of transferring water from one place to another in giant plastic bags towed by ships? This system has been championed on the Pacific coast by entrepreneur Terry Spragg, who has developed water bags larger than the Goodyear blimp.

"I think that could be cheaper than tankers, but even so it's not cheaper than improving water-use efficiency," Mr. Gleick says. "It's not cheaper than changing the allocation of water from farmers to the cities. ... If a city can afford to pay $600 an acre foot and farmers are paying $50 an acre foot, then the cities could buy some water from the farmers, and everybody would be happy. The cities could pay farmers $100 an acre foot and they're getting cheap water and the farmers are making money."

Sandra Postel, Mr. Gleick's counterpart on the East Coast, at the World Water Project in Amherst, Massachusetts, agrees that the economics don't favour bulk shipments.

"It's got to be cost-competitive with the next best alternative, which, in most cases where the water would be shipped, is desalination," she says. "Those costs, while still very high compared to traditional water costs, have been coming down. It's funny, all of the information I've seen on the ideas for shipping water by tanker and all the phone calls I've gotten from various companies interested in doing this, I've yet to see some serious cost numbers. What does it cost to take water from some part of Canada and ship it to China or the Middle East?."

Ms. Postel also notes that bulk water shipments would deliver water too expensive to use for irrigation.

"If we (Americans) are growing wheat with water imported from Canada, nobody is going to be able to afford the food."

The debate over bulk exports began in earnest in the 1980s with a proposal, backed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney and Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, which would have dammed the mouth of James Bay and diverted canals of water to dry regions of Canada and the U.S. The project, called GRAND, the Great Replenishment and Northern Development Canal Concept, included possibly an aqueduct into the Great Lakes and then pipelines south from there.

Further west, the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA) proposed to dam most rivers in B.C. and divert the water into the U.S. and Mexico through hundreds of dams and canals. Mr. de Villiers says the NAWAPA plan would have done more damage to the environment than all the water diversions in America combined.

Neither of these heavily subsidized mega projects (NAWAPA had a $500-billion U.S. price tag) got off the ground. In the late 1980s, the Santa Barbara, California, decided to build a desalination plant instead of seeking water exports from Canada.

Elizabeth Brubaker, director of Environment Probe, a supporter of privatization of municipal water systems, thinks the bulk export debate is "a red herring." However she warned that Canadians must remain on guard against subsidized water diversion mega-projects.

"The mere lack of economic efficiency doesn't prevent us from spending a lot of money on a project sometimes," she says. "Some of the water export proposals that have been pushed over the years have been potential disasters."

The export issue reared its head again in 1998 when Ontario granted the Nova Group of Sault Ste. Marie permission to export millions of litres of Lake Superior water by tanker to Asia. The Nova Group withdrew its proposal after a storm of controversy on both sides of the border.

The next year, the Canadian government announced a bulk-water prohibition strategy, introducing amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to prohibit bulk-

water removal from boundary waters, in particular the Great Lakes. Of all the possible sources of water for the thirsty U.S., the Great Lakes are the most obvious. The Great Lakes ecosystem holds 20 per cent of the world's supply of fresh surface water. However, rainfall and rivers supply only one per cent of the Great Lakes water. The rest of the water is ancient glacial deposits.

Two years ago, the Canadian and U.S. governments asked the International Joint Commission to prepare a report on the bulk exports issue. The commission was established by the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909 and helps to regulate water diversion in the Great Lakes.

After holding public hearings, the commission delivered its report in March last year. It recommended that governments "should not permit any new proposal for removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal would not endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin."

The commission said there should be "no net loss" of water from the lakes and and that any water that is taken must be returned in a condition that protects the quality of the water.

Moreover, the commission argued the era of major water diversions and transfers has passed. After building a network of dams, reservoirs and canals, the western U.S. is now focusing on ecosystem restoration to try to undo the damage that has already been done.

The commission noted the western U.S. has an option for water far less expensive than bulk imports, namely the buying and leasing of water rights from farmers, who consume 80 per cent of the water supply, many of them growing low value crops such as corn and alfalfa. Some farmers can make more money selling water than growing food.

The commission also noted that desalination is increasingly becoming a realistic alternative to bulk water shipments.

"Although it seems clear that climate change and continued reports of worldwide water shortages will continue to keep discussion of bulk water shipments alive, the cost of such shipments makes it unlikely that there will be serious efforts to take Great Lakes water to foreign markets, and cost will continue to serve as an impediment to bulk shipments from coastal waters," the commission concluded.

The commission noted that a hidden water transfer is already taking place, from aquifers in the Great Lakes basin that recharge the lakes themselves.

"Groundwater withdrawals at rates high enough to warrant concern" are already happening, particularly in the Chicago area, where aquifer levels have been dropping for more than two decades. Chicago is also withdrawing surface water from the Great Lakes basin at a rate of 4,300 cubic feet per second. Half the water is for drinking and the rest is used to reverse the flow of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. Excess water winds up in the Mississippi River.

The commission says we do not understand the issue of groundwater consumption and recharge in the Great Lakes, and there needs to be more aquifer mapping and study of the role of groundwater in supporting the ecological systems of the basin.

In June, the governors of the eight states that border the Great Lakes and the premiers of Ontario and Quebec agreed to limit exports of water to inland municipalities. Any plan to pipe water out of the lakes will require governments to consider whether the diversion is environmentally sound.

The Council of Canadians said it was disappointed that the commission failed to more definitely recommend against bulk exports.

But the commission did address the groups concerned about bulk transfers, admitting that at public hearings many speakers felt the commission too readily dismissed the threat of major water diversions.

"They indicated that while an analysis of past proposals for mega-diversions indicates that they may not have been feasible, at least from an economic standpoint, this does not mean that proposals of this kind could never be pursued for economic or other reasons.

"While the commission acknowledges the anxiety expressed by some at the hearings, the commission continues to believe that the era of major diversions and water transfers in the United States and Canada has ended.

"Barring significant climate change, an overcoming of engineering problems and of numerous economic and social issues, and an abandonment of national environmental ethics, the call for such diversions and transfers will not return."

No doubt questions will continue to be raised about the possibility of Canadian water exports, but, for now at least, one definite answer has been given.

Philip Lee's series, The Global Water Crisis, can be read online at www.ottawacitizen.com


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 16, 2001


Saving 'the last oasis'

Water, the source of life, is now in desperately short supply. Yet, despite this looming world crisis, we continue to consume and waste water with reckless abandon.

Philip Lee The Ottawa Citizen

Yaron Kaminsky, The Associated Press / A lake once flourished in the Hula Valley of northern Israel, but drought has dried it to a puddle. Canadians take their fresh water for granted, but in most of the world water is a precious commodity. More than one billion people lack clean drinking water and as many as 20,000 children die each year from drinking contaminated water.

David Rossiter, Lethbridge Herald / A rusty car once covered by water sits high and dry below a bridge crossing the Chin Reservoir south of Taber, Alta. This summer, water has receded in the reservoir at an alarming rate due to hot, dry weather. Although Canada has nine per cent of the world's freshwater supply, experts warn that the nation isn't as well off as the statistics imply.

Replenishing the Well

It's a full-blown crisis in some of the world's most arid regions, but the planet's shrinking supply of clean water has also become a critical issue in Canada -- forcing us to rethink the price we pay at the tap, the way we irrigate our farm fields, even the way we flush our toilets. Over the next week, Citizen writer Philip Lee examines the waste and exploitation of water and some of the solutions being proposed to save this precious resource.

- - -

Clear water bubbles through the sand, carves a stream in the beach and spills into the North Atlantic.

Step into this water source on the east coast of Prince Edward Island and you'll sink up to your knees. When you scramble back onto dry land, you'll be numbed to the bone by frigid water, colder than the seawater that crashes against the shore.

The groundwater beneath this stretch of copper-coloured shoreline pulses up through fissures in the island into the sand. The water flows from an aquifer, porous rock that stores water underground.

The water from this spring will evaporate after it mixes with the salt water, then return as rain to recharge the source.

This P.E.I. spring appears bottomless and forever renewable. That is the illusion of water in places such as this, found throughout water- rich Canada.

It is an illusion because water is a finite resource.

There is the same amount of water on the planet today as there was in prehistoric times; the Earth is not making more water, just moving it from place to place. The water that is spilling down the beach is water recycled by nature.

It is an illusion because water, the source of life, is now in desperately short supply. More than one billion people now lack access to safe drinking water.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 children die every day from water-related diseases. Nova Scotia writer Marq de Villiers, author of the award- winning book Water, which explores the global water crisis, converts this statistic into its starkest terms: somewhere in the world, a child dies every eight seconds from drinking contaminated water.

In dry regions of the world, aquifers, like the one beneath the spring on the Prince Edward Island beach, are being mined at a much faster pace than they can be replenished by rainfall.

The world's food supply depends on irrigated agriculture, but water supplies in the world's major food production regions are drying up.

Irrigated agriculture uses about 70 per cent of all the freshwater taken from rivers and lakes and aquifers; 20 per cent goes to industry and 10 per cent to cities.

"In many of the areas where there is a heavy use of water for irrigation, that water use is not sustainable," says Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project in Amherst, Massachusetts.

"Water tables are falling from the over-pumping of aquifers in order to sustain irrigated agricultural production in many of the most important areas of irrigation in the world -- China, India, Pakistan, parts of Mexico, the U.S.

"There is a significant portion of irrigated agriculture that depends on groundwater irrigation, and that groundwater use is not sustainable. That is a major problem."

Major cities are running out of water. Neighbourhoods in Mexico City are sinking into the ground as aquifers are being mined to supply water to an exploding population.

All current sources of water in El Paso, Texas, are expected to be spent by 2030. The mighty Rio Grande River no longer reaches its mouth; vegetation is now choking the river where water used to explode into the sea.

After three years of drought, Israel is running out of water. Its aquifers are being over-pumped and seawater is seeping into wells. The salty water can't be used for irrigation, and it will be several years before the country has new seawater desalination plants up and running. The control of scarce freshwater resources is increasingly becoming a flashpoint in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The State of Florida, suffering from perpetual water shortages with an ever-growing population that consumes 28 billion litres of water per day, is taking drastic measures to increase its freshwater supply.

The City of Tampa will soon open the largest seawater desalination plant in North America, which will strip the salt out of water it pumps from Tampa Bay. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is now championing a proposal to collect surface water and inject it, untreated and contaminated by all manner of impurities, into depleted aquifers.

- - -

On the surface, Canada is protected from these dire scenarios. Canada has nine per cent of the world's freshwater supply (Brazil has 18 per cent, the U.S. eight per cent). The Ottawa River, the source of water for the City of Ottawa, has more water flowing through it than all of the rivers of Western Europe combined.

But Canada isn't as well off as the statistics imply.

More than half the country's freshwater flows north to the Arctic Circle, while 90 per cent of its population lives in the southern regions of the country.

Seemingly blind to the global water crisis, Canadians continue to consume and waste water, and discharge polluted water, with reckless abandon.

Among OECD countries, only the United States uses more water per capita than Canadians.

Canada consumes 1.6 million litres of water per capita each year (including industrial, agricultural and household use), twice as much water as the per capita rate of water consumption in France.

Between 1972 and 1991, Canada's rate of freshwater withdrawal nearly doubled, from 24 billion cubic metres to 45 billion cubic metres, during a time when the population increased by just five per cent.

This profligate use of water stresses lakes, rivers, aquifers, municipal water treatment systems, and wastewater plants, where all of what we consume is discharged.

Canadians are water-wasters in part because water in this country is heavily subsidized by governments. A new report from Environment Canada concludes that Canadians don't pay enough for their water to cover the cost of water delivery and wastewater treatment. And that doesn't even cover the estimated $90 billion or so that is needed to upgrade water-supply systems across the country during the next 15 years.

Canadian households use twice as much water as European consumers and water rates in Canada are half those in Europe.

While Canada continues to subsidize its water, the U.S. has started raising consumer rates. According to Larry Solomon, director of the Urban Renaissance Institute in Toronto, U.S. water rates have risen 43 per cent in the past five years, prompting a conservation movement "not unlike the energy efficiency improvements that occurred in the aftermath of the OPEC oil crisis."

Cruise ships that dock in the port of Saint John, N.B., fill their tanks with water for less than $200. The ships would pay $1,400 for the same amount of water across the border in Boston. Meanwhile, Saint John has an antiquated water-treatment system that relies on large doses of chlorine disinfectant, and is badly in need of a major overhaul, which governments say they can't afford.

Despite this trend in the U.S., water subsidies continue to threaten the global water supply, according to a report released this spring by the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.

"Freshwater is undervalued the world over," says the report's co- author, Nels Johnson. "Freshwater ecosystems are not being managed effectively for people or for nature."

The report recommends that people should be paying water prices that cover both the cost of supply and the protection of watersheds.

The report suggests that without price reforms to encourage conservation, half the people on the planet will be living in water- stressed river basins by 2025.

In a report called Subsidizing Unsustainable Development, prepared for the Earth Council, economist Andre de Moor and journalist Peter Calamai argue it is time for "a reality check" on the cost of water subsidies.

"Aquifers are being drained, rivers are drying up, more than a billion people still don't have access to safe water, and vast tracts of irrigated land are being lost to salinity; over all, water is being lost in flood proportions and used inefficiently for low-value purposes," the report says.

"And what are governments doing? Subsidizing this ecological vandalism, natural resource waste and economic perversity by selling water well below actual supply cost, much less market value. The message of subsidy is clear: there's plenty of water; don't worry about conservation or higher efficiency or recycling."

This summer, when a parliamentary committee exploring the possibility of establishing new federal drinking water standards in Canada met in Ottawa, representatives from the provinces pointed out that the federal government, not water consumers themselves, would have to pay for the improvements to treatment systems across the country.

The proper management and conservation of water in Canada will begin only when governments place a proper value on the resource, says Elizabeth Brubaker, executive director of Environment Probe, a Toronto-based conservation group.

"It's astonishing to me that so many players in the water industry continue to insist that there is no problem," Ms. Brubaker says. "People's standards are so low. We've got to admit there's a problem before we can solve this problem, and it doesn't sound to me like a lot of people have admitted there is a problem."

In fact, Canada faces water problems that extend from sea to sea.

On a long weekend in early summer, as the cold-water spring bubbled away on the P.E.I. beach, just 20 minutes away in Charlottetown residents were boiling their household water. Engineers had found traces of E. coli bacteria in the city's aging water system, which depends on a series of wells. Chemical runoff from the farming industry on the island is a constant threat to groundwater resources. Every year fish are killed in island streams by pesticides that run off farm fields.

This spring, Newfoundland had dozens of boil-water advisories in towns across the island, prompting the provincial government to make plans to purchase millions of dollars worth of water-disinfection equipment. This week, all residents of the city of St. John's were ordered to boil their water because of contamination in the city's supplies.

In New Brunswick, a voluntary well-testing program revealed that nearly half the water samples were contaminated with harmful bacteria. Dozens of wells in New Brunswick have been contaminated by leaks from gasoline storage tanks.

In Walkerton, a town of 5,000 people in southwestern Ontario, environmentalists, bureaucrats and politicians were locked in a fierce debate over what caused the contamination of the town's water supply with E. coli bacteria last year that killed seven people and made about half the population sick.

The people of North Battleford, Sask., were struggling to cope with a water supply contaminated with the nasty parasite cryptosporidium, making dozens of people sick. A group of residents has launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the provincial government, which has ordered an inquiry into how the city's water supply was contaminated. In July, the boil-water order was lifted, but residents remain suspicious of the safety of the water supply.

Other Canadian cities have suffered recent cryptosporidium outbreaks, including Cranbrook and Kelowna, B.C., in 1996, and Sioux Lookout, Ont., in 1997. Cryptosporidium contamination can be deadly. A 1993 outbreak in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, killed 100 people and made 400,000 sick.

In southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, farmers are trying to survive another summer of extreme drought. The St. Mary Irrigation District in southern Alberta has been rationing water to its 1,800 users since spring, allowing farmers only 60 per cent of the water they usually receive to sustain their crops. Irrigation dugouts across the southern Prairies, which recharge with spring runoff each year, are running dry.

The water supplies on 171 native reserves across Canada don't meet federal health guidelines.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the water cycle, wastewater and sewage is spilling into waterways across the country.

Environment Probe reports that on the Atlantic coast, more than a quarter of all sewage is discharged directly into coastal waters. Halifax has been discharging raw sewage into its harbour for more than 250 years. In Saint John, open sewage ditches run through downtown into Marsh Creek, an urban stream, which carries waste into the harbour at a rate that amounts to more than 200 Exxon Valdez spills a year.

More than 350 chemical compounds have been found in the Great Lakes, many of them persistent toxic chemicals such as alkylated lead, DDT, mercury and mirex, according to Environment Canada. The St. Lawrence River, which provides drinking water to about three million residents of Quebec, is also contaminated by toxic chemicals.

More than two million of the country's estimated six million septic tank systems are failing from poor construction and maintenance, according to Environment Canada's estimates. The soil can no longer filter the flood of septic effluent, which is threatening groundwater sources across the country. More than a quarter of Canadians rely on groundwater to supply their homes.

At the same time that Prairie farmers struggled to survive the drought and Charlottetown residents were boiling their water, in Vancouver, a group of environmentalists, community activists and academics from 30 countries gathered to organize a protest against the privatization of water at an event sponsored by the Council of Canadians. Maude Barlow, national chair of the council, promised to launch an international campaign to oppose selling water for profit.

"There is an effort to tie water exports to all other issues," Ms. Brubaker says. "So when we talk about the need to price water, the people who are concerned about water exports say, 'No that turns water into a commodity and makes it subject to trade agreements.' And if we want to privatize water utilities, they say, 'No no no, the water utilities are lining up for jobs in Canada so that they will be in a position to export water to the United States.' Every water issue turns into a debate about water exports."

- - -

Peter Gleick, director of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security in Oakland, California, one of the world's foremost researchers on freshwater issues, says we must fundamentally change the way we think about water.

"Rather than endlessly trying to find the water to meet some projection of future desires, it is time to plan for meeting present and future human needs with what is available, to determine what desires can be satisfied within the limits of our resources, and to ensure that we preserve the natural ecological cycles that are so integral to human well-being," he writes.

Mr. Gleick says water managers around the world are slowly turning away from megaproject solutions to the water crisis, such as diverting bulk water or building new dams, which in recent years have been exposed as environmentally destructive themselves.

"We are not very efficient in our use of water," Mr. Gleick says. "Every sector of society could improve its water-use efficiency, including the way we use water in the home."

He points out that if we return water to the environment clean and treated, then higher levels of water use can be sustained.

"If we pollute the water, then eventually that's going to come back to haunt us, and it already is," he says.

"Parts of China are extremely water-short, but part of their problem is that they have contaminated huge quantities of their water resources, so in fact they have less water than just looking at their water accounts might suggest, because much of their water is unusable. If they were to clean up their water, that would effectively increase their supply."

Ms. Postel, of the Global Water Policy Project, says the solution to the world's water shortages lies in conservation, efficiency and recycling, recovering and preserving the water we already have. "The cities that have taken conservation to heart have shown great gains," she says.

"We haven't yet made the paradigm shift from expanding the supply. When we see we're going to run short we always rush to a supply solution, rather than looking at how we can do more with what we've already got, by increasing efficiency and reasonable conservation assessments.

"I think those are the sensible solutions."

She has assigned a poetic name to her solutions: "The last oasis."

The question remains, who will take responsibility for creating this oasis?

Mr. De Villiers suggests we all have a responsibility to create the oasis, for, in his view, no one owns water.

"It might rise on your property, but it just passes through," he writes. "You can use it and abuse it, but it is not yours to own. It is part of the global commons, not 'property' but part of our life support system."

He says the real threat to the world's water supply is not "the corporate rapists of ecological fancy," but rather "ordinary people, doing things in the way they have always done them."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 16, 2001.

Martin, this is the homepage of the tow-giant-bags-full-of-water-guy, who was mentioned in your article.


looks cheaper than tankers or pipelines, but swordfish and marlin could pose a problem. ;) By the looks of the peace sign, I'd say the inventors were hippies, and I'm not sure what Dr. Freud would think about such a device. The History & Technology bit is interesting.

-- number six (!@!.com), August 16, 2001.

There seems to be an increase in water articles in the major newspapers the last few weeks. Looks like they are starting to get the message concerning the worlds water supply. Here is the URL for the series of articles in the Ottawa Citizen for anyone that is interested.

Global Water Crisis

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 16, 2001.

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